1840s: Poulton Family Letters

I will call these few letters the Poulton family Collection. They pertain to the family of Rev. George H. Poulton (1794-1834) and his wife, Mary Ann Allen (1796-1883), who were natives of London, England. Rev. Poulton was a clergyman of the Church of England, but being an invalid, spent much time traveling for his health. After passing the winter of 1834 in Troy, New York, Rev. Poulton set out on a journey to Canada but died in Lockport, New York. Several children were born to Rev. George and Mary Poulton, most of whom are mentioned in these letters: George, William, Jane, Elizabeth, Charlotte, and Mary Ann Poulton.

After her father’s death, Mary Ann Poulton (1823-Aft1880) was invited to return to Troy to attend Mrs. Emma Willard’s Seminary for Young Ladies. She remained in the Seminary from 1835 to 1838. She then went to Laurens, South Carolina, to teach music and mathematics. She returned to Troy Seminary in 1841 to teach but left the following year due to some financial dispute and returned to South Carolina where she taught in Unionville. In 1845, she was married to Col. Thomas Nuckolls Dawkins (1807-1880), a circuit judge.

Apparently Mary Ann (Allen) Poulson was remarried prior to 1844. By the spring of that year, she was residing in Slayton Settlement near Lockport, New York, and her surname had changed to Clark. He is no doubt the “Mr. Clark” mentioned in the letter of 15 December 1841.

1841 Stampless Letter

1841 Stampless Letter

Addressed to Mary A. Poulton, Troy Seminary, New York State

Lockport [New York]
15 December 1841

My dearest Mary,

Your last letter pained me much. Why do you feel so on my account? Have I not been supported hitherto by the strong arm of my Heavenly Parent, and cannot you trust me in His hands — one who ever been at hand to deliver out of every trial that has come upon us. Shall we forget the many mercies we daily receive from his constant care of us? Are we not preserved in health and have we not enough to eat and to drink and to wear? Are we not all wonderfully provided for? Surely we ought to be truly grateful for these mercies. Were my children happy, I would be content, but you write sorrowfully. Your spirit seems cast down within you. Are you not treated well. If not, you surely are not compelled to stay where you are. But I hope better things.

Do not avoid not having some of the extra comforts of life. Look back to what might have been the situation of our family and think how much better we are off than when we had any reason to expect. You must not feel discouraged because you have done nothing towards my support. Have you not done it for your dear sister, and do you think I shall ever forget your kindness again. I do not require your aid. I am at present able to provide for myself. I am well doffed and have a home at the Doctors. If I am not e___ on at Mr. Clark’s whenever I need one. He was the first to come and offer his house to me when he heard I was going to leave Mr. Holmes. We had agreed that I would not visit him again unless my children could be much willing that we should be united. But when he knew my comfortable home had to begin up, then he could resist no longer. Indeed, Mary, he is a warm friend. I heard he has been very sick. He sent for me a few days after I left Mr. Holmes. I have not seen any thing of them for the girl at Mr. Holmes forgot where I had gone to.

I was called upon to attend a Lady at the Globe Tavern a fortnight since last Monday and that is the reason why your letter has remained so long unanswered. When I am nursing, I cannot be so punctual in my correspondence but I know you will excuse me.

I wish you would write to me when you are at leisure some time and tell me all your sorrows and what is the amount of debt you still owe. My prayers shall ever humbly ascend to heaven for your welfare and pray, my dear child, keep up good courage. I hope another year will enable you and your sister to return home. Why do you not write to your brothers George and William? They both complain of your long silence. George has been sick but was better when he wrote to me. I suppose you have heard from him by this time.

Your sister also feels as if you were not so mindful of her as she wishes you to be. She feels as if you were almost at home compared to her. You must write to her punctually. Your letters are a great solace to her in her loneliness. Therefore, I beseech you write to her often. The time seems long until I see you and yet I am surprised at the rapidity with which it progresses. Another year has nearly passed away. May the next be happier than the present and be spent more devotedly to God. Every year brings us nearer to our home. I trust in the future. I am looking forward to that next ___ for those that love the Lord, and walk in the way and his commandments. This, I trust, I shall continue for awhile life holds out and when death lays his cold hand upon me, I hope to shout Victory through the all atoning blood of my blessed Redeemer. This is the happiest way to live — in a constant preparation for death. May all my beloved children experience the same joyful anticipation of heaven that fills he bosom of your ever affectionate mother, — Mary Poulton

I believe the family at Prospect Hill are all well but I have not seen any but Jane. For some time I have been confined at home by pressure of business. Your sisters Jane and Charlotte continue to improve. They often speak of you and send their warmest love to you as would all your friends if they knew I was writing to you. Farewell my love.


The 2nd letter was written by Mary A. Clark to her daughter, Mary A. Poulton. The dateline of Mary’s letter reads Slayton Settlement which was located near Lockport, New York. From the letter, we learn that Elizabeth Poulton was a teacher like her sister Mary Ann.

Stampless Letter

Stampless Letter

Addressed to Miss Mary A. Poulton, Unionville [Union], Union County, South Carolina

Slayton Settlement [near Lockport, New York]
April 1, 1844

My very dear Mary,

Your long absence does not make me feel the less care for you. Be assured your mother will never cease to take a deep interest in the welfare of her children while life lingers in this mortal frame. I think I have always proved this in my past conduct and I am now grown too old to change in this matter. I shall not easily forget you. Your image is too deeply graven on my heart to be erased by time. I do not fear but I should recognize you should the Lord grant us the privilege of meeting each other this side the grave. I feel sometimes a strong confidence that such will be the case, but life is so uncertain and the time so far distant yet when I may look forward to that event and our separation has been so much longer than we anticipated when we first parted, that my heart grows faint when I think about it. Yet, now again, hope springs up and I feel encouraged to pray and believe, and still knowing that nothing is impossible to my heavenly Parish in whom I have so long trusted, and from whom we have been so abundantly blessed, we may truly say hither to hath the Lord helped us. We have passed through many trials and difficulties, yet have been supported under them and delivered out of them most wonderfully. Let us unite together in praising God for his mercies.

You told me in one of your former letters to continue my prayers for you. Rest assured, my dear child, that until I cease to pray for myself, and that I trust will not be short of the period when my spinot will take its flight from Earth away to Heaven, at present I can truly say that while this earthly house of my tabernacle feels the decay of nature, I have an house not made with hands, Eternal in the Heavens. May the Lord grant me the society of my beloved children there, if we never meet again here.

You ask me if I grow old. I believe I am not generally taken to be as far advanced in years as I really am. I shall be forty-eight in June. My appearance is about the same; my method of dressing the same — plain, as becomes a follower of the meek and lowly Jesus. Your letter gave me much pleasure for your long silence almost persuaded me you had ceased to love me as you were wont to do in days gone by. The following prospects which you and Elizabeth also seem to have aroused my heart to dance for joy. There is nothing that adds to my earthly comfort equal to the knowledge of your happiness and prosperity. I pray God they may be realized to the extent of your expectations. I think if you were together, you would be happy if you did not realize as much profit. The time will soon pass away and then I hope you will not be our___ again, unless you get married, which you hint at in your letter. our determination not to do so while in debt meets my decided approbation. It might cost you much sorrow. I should rather you had not settled at the South but I must submit, if you think it best. I hope nothing will prevent your visit, if our lives are prolonged to that day. It is a long time to look forward to yet.

I have received a letter from Elizabeth since her arrival with a prospectus of her school. She has become quite a teacher. I think she writes in good spirits. I heard from Charlotte lately. She was well and conducting herself much to the satisfaction of Mrs. Thomas. I had a letter from George a short time since. He seems very much engaged at present. He writes very kind, affectionate letters to me and promises for my sake to abstain from the follies and vices of hte great city. May he be preserved from them is my constant prayer. Jane was well when I saw her last. She has been to school all winter and improves fast. The Doctor says she is nearly as tall as myself and promises to be a good figure. She has a small foot yet and her hands are very decent. She is very far from being clumsy. You will know her as soon as ever you see her. Her countenance is the same. Her hair grows dark. You must not fear her being slighted by the Dr. and Mrs. Townsend on account of William’s marriage. They are not pleased with his choice much though she appears a pretty little woman, but I suppose does not take hold of business like a farmer’s wife. She had a babe but it died when a few months old. She was not able to nurse it and it had to be brought up by hand. She came very near dying at the time of her confinement. I think William makes but a cold sort of a husband. It is not a very happy family, I fear. Yet Jane seems happy. They make a great deal more of here than they appear to do of William’s wife. You must come home as soon as you can and judge for yourself.

Father Clark sends his love to you. Ann is married to a dutch farmer in upper Canada.

Pray do not be so long in answering this as you did the last for I love to hear from you too well to have such long intervals between our letters… We cannot get an answer from your Grandfather. I have written him three letters and never had an answer to any of them. I think you must take a trip over to England when you can save money enough or when you have a partner to take you there. This seems the only way to me that justice will ever be done to our family. I have written to Mrs. Faithful twice and have not heard from her now three years past. I thought I would write sometime to Mr. Snoswell. It was him that gave me the vineyard you have and also the fruit knives. Do you not remember his making us a visit at Providence and my going to Newton Abbott with him?

There is one thing more I must mention, your friends here with myself think you ought to visit on Mrs. Willard giving you a bill of items for they say you have no right to pay her without it. George called at the Seminary last year when he left here and Thom. Willard promised to send it to him in New York. Think about it for I fear you will be kept in suspense a long time.

I remain, dear child, your affectionate mother, — Mary A. Clark


The third letter was written by Mary A. Clark to her daughter, Charlotte Poulton, who apparently was adopted and/or raised by Ednah Smith, the wife of Dr. Smith of Lockport, New York.

1844 Stampless Letter

1844 Stampless Letter

Addressed to Charlotte Poulton, in the care of Ednah D. Thomas,† Aurora, Cayuga County, New York State

Slayton Settlement
July 9, 1844

My dearest Charlotte,

Your letter gave me much pleasure. To hear that you are well and happy and usefully employed is a great addition to my happiness, I assure you, dear child. And to hear you say that you love me with increased affection since you left me is very gratifying to my feelings. My love for you is an undying love. Never till I cease to breath or am unconscious of anything that passes around me can I cease to love you. I was much pleased at your remark if we never meet on Earth, I hope we shall meet in Heaven. I trust we shall be so unspeakably happy, my dear girl, as to live in this vain _______ world in that way which will be acceptable to God that we may meet where parting will be no more and where all tears are wiped away and we shall dwell forever in the presence of God and His holy angels. What a prospect is this, my child, and if we are faithful in the performance of the duties which God has enjoined upon us in his holy word, we shall certainly obtain this never-ending state of happiness.

My dear girl, read the scriptures attentively, pray in search earnestly that God would truly convert your should and make you happy in love. You know it has been my practice a long time to retire three times a day to hold converse with my Heavenly Parent and to ask blessings upon my beloved family. Attend the means of Grace whenever you can. Pay attention to everything you read that teaches you the way to heaven. Follow the dictates of the Holy Spirit upon your heart which will lead you into all truth. Life is very uncertain. The young are taken as well as those far advanced in years.

I was to meeting on the Chestnut Ridge last Sabbath and we called to see dear Betsey Norton who lies at the point of death with consumption. She has been sick about six months. Brother Norton and his wife are very much more resigned than could scarcely be expected but Betsey is so happy in the prospect of death, it is enough to console them. We sang and prayed with her, and perhaps we shall never see her again in this world. But we hope to meet in that blest world above.

Sister Gaskill has been confined with a son but he has sickened and died. He was buried last Saturday in the orchard between the apple trees. He was not quite four weeks old. The rest of the family are well. Mr. & Mrs. Firth are well and children — also the baby grows very pretty and is as good as ever. She does not walk yet.

Your father was over to Canada four weeks since and all the Brethren and sisters well. Ann has commenced house-keeping. She is not very well at present but she seems very happy. Your sister Mary has had a letter from your Grandfather Poulton. He writes very kindly; says he has not forgotten any of you in his Will but has left what will be a proof of his justice and affection. He has been very sick and your Grandmother also, but they were both better when he wrote. They with your Aunts send their love to you. They have Jane and Elizabeth at home with them. I received a letter a letter from Mary. She says that she has sent an answer by a lady that was going to England who will call and see him. this will do the old gentleman good. He can ask so many questions concerning your sisters.

Elizabeth wrote to me in May that she is well and happy for her, and very successful in her school. She said she was going to write to you. Perhaps you have received it before now. George sent me a new small dress this Spring just after your Mother left Lockport or I would have sent you a piece to let you see it. He has been sick with a severe cold. Jane is well but very busy. You must excuse her if she does not write to you; she has so much to do. She is spinning now and feeding silk worms. Yet, she will write soon, I hope.

Our little home looks pretty well this summer. Everything grows fast. Crops of every kind look well. We have eaten peas and new potatoes from our garden since the fifth of this month. I have been very unfortunate with my poultry this summer. ____ early brood of chickens was all killed off one after another.Elizabeth’s brood of nine was all killed in one night. ____ of goslings all distorted by one rat which we found in the stable with six chickens of mine in his neck. Jane dined on her next of Turkey-eggs. Therefore, I have not raised anything _____ this summer. I have now six chickens with young ____ and four young turkeys hatched by her…..

† This was certainly Ednah (Dean) Smith (1789-1873), widow of Dr. Smith of Lockport, New York, who married David Thomas (1776-1859) in September 1843. She is buried in Chestnut Hill Cemetery in Union Springs, Cayuga, New York.


The fourth letter was written by Jane Florence Poulton from Lockport to her sister Charlotte E. Poulton at Aurora, New York.

Stampless Letter

1846 Stampless Letter

Addressed to Miss Charlotte E. Poulton, Aurora, Cayuga County, New York

Lockport [New York]
January 23rd 1846

Dear Sister,

I received your kind letter some time since but could not find time to answer it my time, in fact, all occupied between my studies and music. Do not think I have forgotten you. Oh no, the least that ones fondly loved never forget, but loves finely on to the close. We thought of you when eating our Christmas pudding of Mama’s making and the only drawback to our happiness was the absence of those so dear. We received a letter from [brother] George three weeks ago. He writes very cheerfully. He has had a present of a guitar and is taking lessons on it. We have not heard from [sister] Mary since October. Have you? If you have, do send it. Why does she not write? She is too much engaged in the new connection she has formed to think of home and early friends and cottage home at the North. I hope not.

Have you written George? I have not but intend to soon. Absence makes the heart grow fonder and although I do not like his ____ings any better than I ever did, yet he is a brother and I think there would be much less misery and crime in the world if we should treat the bad with clemency and the good with justice. Let us, at least, act upon this rule whatever others do or not. George wrote grandfather by the iron steam ____ of the West. He has not heard from him lately. Mother is ____ well for her and Lizzie ____ and all our friends at the farm. Doctor has gone to the West and intends visiting Washington on his way home in May. Something very new frets him for although he has said a great deal about it for the last ten years, I did not. He would go but his home is not very pleasant to him.

[Sister] Lizzie is teaching school and likes it as well as can be expected. They like her very much indeed and want her back next summer. She boards at home which makes it very pleasant for her and Mother. I have not been home since Christmas. I have to practice on the piano three hours after school and six hours on Saturday. Mrs. Wilson goes out when I am practicing so that I shall not be disturbed and as I sit hour after hour at my music I think how happy I should be if you were only here and then I could play you some tunes which I could not do when you were here last. So you see that I have not much time to visit or go home. In fact, I never go out of the house except on an errand or to church where I go three times every Sunday. But I am home tonight. Mother will call for me after school but I shall return tomorrow.

The Erie Canal at Lockport, NY (Bartlett)

The Erie Canal at Lockport, NY (Bartlett)

We were awoke last night by the cry of fire — so awful to me. Our room was light as day and the steeples of all the churches and almost all the village was bathed in ruddy light. We got up and I looked at the clock. It was one and the bell did not ring ___ time. What a shame for the firemen to be so dilatory. We could not see what it was but we were told this morning that it was the tannery back of the Episcopal Church.†

But the dinner bell has rung and I must go. You must not expect very long letters from me. I have not time. It is almost one and must go. Mother and Eliza well. Write soon and tell you all about the college. I  do not know nothing else to tell you of the ___ kind and although I would fill a dozen sheets of paper and then not have said all, I want to but I shall tire your patience with my bad writing and worse composition. But really can write better if I had time to. Do not forget me though far away. Think on me when in the still hour of night when your daily work is done and you ____ before your Maker and offer the ____ of a humble heart, and when the returning day calls you to your accustomed duties and believe me I will do the same. God only knows when we shall meet… [live right] so that we shall meet that wright world where parting is unknown. Farewell. Write soon.

Your loving sister, — Jane Florence Poulton

† The Lockport Courier (Lockport, NY) carried the following notice on 23 January 1846: “The extensive Tannery of Messrs. Hitchins & Leonard of this village, was destroyed by fire this morning between the hours of one and two. Circumstances favor the belief that it was set on fire. We understand that Messrs. Hitchins & Leonard were insured $4000 on their stock in a New York Company which, we are glad to learn, will probably cover their loss. The building was owned by an Eastern Bank and was insured for $2000 in the same Company.”


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